Fruit Trees Never Lie

Fruit is one of God’s favorite metaphors for describing what our lives organically produce based on what our hearts believe and love. He employs it repeatedly in the Bible (Psalm 1:3; Proverbs 14:14; Isaiah 3:10; Jeremiah 17:10; Matthew 3:8; John 15:8; Galatians 5:22–23). And to our point, this parable of Jesus is particularly incisive:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15–20)

This is a devastatingly simple assessment process. We recognize who’s true and who’s false “by their fruits,” what they do and don’t do, what they say and don’t say. A thornbush can insist it’s a vine, but if it bears no grapes, well. . . . A diseased tree might insist it’s healthy, but if the fruit is diseased, well. . . . Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and the behaviors behave (Luke 6:45). We can lie with our lips about what we love, but fruit trees never lie.

This is meant to be unnerving. Faith, not fruit, is the instrument by which we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). But faith is revealed by fruit. No fruit, no faith (James 2:17). Bad fruit, bad tree (Matthew 12:33). God sees faith in the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 1:24). But we can see only the fruit of faith. That’s why Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits.”

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